HC Seeks JNU’s Reply in Sexual Harassment Case Against Professor

The Delhi High Court on Monday, 20 May, sought JNU's response on a plea by several women students seeking early hearing on a contempt petition filed against the varsity and a professor who is accused in a sexual harassment case.

Justice JR Midha issued notices to the university, its vice chancellor, professor Atul Johri and Delhi Police on the early hearing application and listed the matter for consideration on 2 July.

The court also called for the records of the main petition on the next date.

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The students sought early hearing after the court on 3 May listed the contempt as well as the main petition for hearing on 31 October.

In the main petition, the students have challenged the clean chit given by JNU's Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to the professor.

The ICC report of 23 July last year followed the high court's 29 May 2018 direction to the committee to find out whether a prima facie case of misconduct was made out against the professor to suspend him from the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the women students, said there was urgency on hearing because the petitioners are scholars who will not be able to complete their PhD if not given access to the laboratory.

She said the contempt petition has been filed against JNU, its vice chancellor and the professor for allegedly "wilfully disobeying" the earlier directions of the high court given in its orders of 29 May and 2 May 2018.

The plea said the court had directed that Johri will have no access to a particular laboratory and the authorities will give complete access of the laboratory and separate keys to the students.

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It said the petitioners have learnt that on the request of Johri, the executive council of JNU in February allowed him access to the laboratory in School of Life Sciences and delegated teaching responsibilities back to him.

The plea sought contempt proceedings against JNU, VC and Johri and that the resolution passed in the EC's meeting be stayed.

The court had earlier sought response of the police on an application by the students seeking direction for filing of charge sheet expeditiously in the sexual harassment case lodged against Johri by them.

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The application claimed there was a real and grave apprehension that any delay in completion of investigation will make witnesses, most of whom are young research scholars and students, professionally and socially vulnerable to influence and intimation by the professor.

The plea said FIR was registered and statements of witnesses were recorded more than a year ago, but no charge sheet has been filed by the police.

The lawyers for JNU and the professor had argued that the ICC has found the complaints of sexual harassment made by the women to be "malicious" and that they had allegedly motivated and instigated others to file such complaints.

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The professor's lawyer had also argued that the women have "taken revenge" against him for being a "tough taskmaster".

Johri was granted bail on 20 March last year, hours after his arrest by the police.

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